Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Amber Lights: Brian Townsend explores alcohol’s close chemical cousin vinegar

Post Thumbnail

A few weeks back, Amber Lights looked at the many different alcohols there are, apart from the one we drink.

Today, we shall look at one of alcohol’s closest chemical relatives – one we also drink, although in limited quantities. That is vinegar, or rather acetic or ethanoic acid.

Essentially, acetic acid is ethyl alcohol (C2H5OH) that has lost two hydrogen atoms but gained an oxygen atom (CH3COOH) – and, boy, does that hydrogen-oxygen swop make a difference… Mixed with plenty of water, it is vinegar, which is usually 4% to 8% acetic acid.

When people first brewed alcohol such as wine or beer centuries ago, they soon learned that they either had to drink the stuff quickly, or else seal it in airtight containers, otherwise the alcohol quickly fermented further to acetic acid, which made it pretty unpalatable.

Brian Townsend.

This was a particular problem with wine, as the grapes’ own yeasty enzyme all-too-quickly caused the wine to ferment further and go sour. It is no coincidence that the word vinegar comes from the French vinaigre, or “sour wine”.

That said, vinegar has proved in many ways to be as usable and useful a liquid as alcohol. It is an essential ingredient in many foods, is universally used for preserving and pickling everything from olives to onions to sauerkraut and for centuries was used for household cleaning and for polishing metals.

Even today, some cleaning liquids contain vinegar, although, owing to its strong and lingering smell, other chemicals have tended to supplant it in modern cleaning fluids.

Years ago, vinegar in the UK was the brown or colourless stuff squirted onto fish and chips at the chippie. Today, the vinegar shelf in the average supermarket displays an astonishing array – red and white wine vinegars, cider vinegar, sherry vinegar, malt and distilled vinegars and, more recently, many sweet-sour balsamic vinegars from different regions of Italy.

However, it is interesting to think that centuries ago vinegar was probably discovered in error, by brewers or winemakers who left their beer or wine standing too long and found it had “gone off”. Rather than pour it away, he sought a use for it and discovered it had many. So never snigger at vinegar – alcohol’s cousin can stand proudly beside it.

More in this series:

‘Get ready’ Brexit message is galling to the British importers and exporters, including the whisky industry

Amber Lights: Benriach’s new quartet of malt expressions produces a fine symphony of flavours

Already a subscriber? Sign in



More from The Courier Food & Drink team

More from The Courier